Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Of Social Networking, and Questions ...

Interesting post by Andrew McAfee ... Some Questions You Might Get Asked ... Somewhat like a cheat sheet of some of the top of mind questions you get asked whenever you are trying to sell the idea of social networking. And, Andrew seems to have covered most, if not all.

The interesting thing is that most of these questions are not as novel as they would be made out to be. The argument i would have, to answer quite a few of these questions is that a lot of the questions raised relate to things already happening ... these are part of human nature, not the exclusive domain of social computing. And some of the questions raised have been around for some time, and would be around, social networking withstanding.

This brings me to the point of social networking ... The only thing social networking tools are allowing people to do is to create relationships, which can be leveraged for work, and pleasure. Now, i wouldnt deny that there would be a fun aspect to social networking, even behind the firewall. But, this is simply because we are all human beings. How many times have you been to a meeting where the discussion was totally centred around work, and not a word about anything besides work? (If you can actually think of times, please assume this question to be rhetorical, and take some time to smell the flowers ...). Point is, "time wasting" is not so much that. Its more of a way to create human relationships, rather than simply relationships which can be expressed in the forma of mathematical equations (i am actually reading a book on this these days!).

As for time wasting (read posting photos of vacation), every organization has the system of setting performance targets, and appraising performance against these. I would expect this process to address time-wasting! And, i am sure managers love to give stretch targets to their reportees, which means that folks out there have less and less time to actually do anything apart from work (sometimes they actually forget to breathe?). In fact, this runs counter to the argument which i have heard a lot of times, which goes something like this ... nobody in my team has time for social computing, because they are already piled up with so much work (check it out here).

Larger concern is the possibility of information leakage. Its not to say that leakage doesnt happen now, but its just that social computing tools could act as a catalyst. Which is where, when within the firewall, there might be the requirement to build some amount of walls around content which is considered sensitive (and please dont treat your annual report as being sensitive, especially when its already been released to the markets!). The point i am trying to make is, there is the temptation to mark everything as sensitive. There must be mechanisms to address this, otherwise nobody gets to access anything. In other words, there is the possibility of falling into the silo thought process, which should be avoided (Chinese walls to be avoided?).

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